As a painter, illustrator, comic book artist and creator, Camilla D’Errico is truly a talented and well rounded individual. She realized that she wanted to work creatively for a living, as a comic book artist, after attending her first San Diego Comic-Con, back in 1998. After working in the comic book industry for a few ways, she began to take on other projects such as magazine covers, toys, and snowboard decals. Now, Camilla is a well-known artist who has been around the world promoting and showcasing her artwork and projects.
“…my success is due to my persistence and hard work because I really have been working my butt off for years!”
MC: During your career as an illustrator, designer, and painter, what are the most valuable lessons that you’ve learned? What challenges did you initially face, and how did you overcome them?
CD: The most valuable lessons I’ve learned are to never be shy about my art. The only way to succeed is to believe in yourself, and to show the world what you’ve got, while being humble about it at the same time. Network, network, network! Get out there, get to know people, chat them up. It is all about getting to know people, and in a lot of ways, about making friends. My biggest challenge was everyone’s negativity: initially my parents didn’t want me to go into comics, since they couldn’t see how it could give me a sound financial future. Then my teachers also advised against comics, and one teacher even told me I was a bad painter. I overcame them with dogged persistence! I never gave up. I never lost sight of my ultimate goal. I simply went for it and have never looked back.
MC: Would you give credit for your success more to your experience at Capilano College, or were you more of a self taught artist who developed her skills outside of college?
CD: That is actually a tough question because I didn’t learn how to draw comics, how to tell a story in images, or the manga style at Capilano College. I didn’t learn to paint there, either. BUT I did learn a ton of useful skills and concepts that made me a better artist. I owe a lot of my design skills to them, and of course the use of computer programs like Photoshop. But truthfully, my success is due to my persistence and hard work because I really have been working my butt off for years!
MC: How did you make the transition from being a successful comic book artist to becoming a successful painter? Did you leverage the knowledge and connections you gained in the comic book industry to help you succeed as a painter?
CD: Actually the two things are completely separate and I haven’t given up one for the other. I will continue to do both, simultaneously if possible. I have been drawing and painting ‘together’ all these years. I’ve definitely leveraged skills from both disciplines and crossed them over. One of the most notable of these is the story telling in comics, and since I love that aspect, I try to tell a story in every painting. This is why each painting has several elements, and why you can read three or four emotions simultaneously in every girl’s expression.
MC: Why did you decide to start selling t-shirts and hoodies with your designs on them, after a career as a painter and comic book artist?
CD: I absolutely LOVE merchandise! And I love having my images on merchandise. It makes me so happy. It’s like Hello Kitty everywhere, and I think that Sanrio is a model to emulate in that way; in the way they’ve spread their cute characters and made so many people happy. To me, spreading my art onto products is a natural extension of my art and clothing is one of the most fun and creative products to extend into. Clothing (or fashion) is how you can express yourself, and your individuality and it is also another expression of art itself, so it is a perfect mix for me!
MC: What marketing tactics do you use to promote your online shop? Do you rely mostly on people who already know about you through your artwork to buy from you, or do you reach out to expanding your fan base beyond your existing art fans?
CD: So far I’ve relied on the people who know my artwork to buy from the online store. I also attend a few conventions (anime, comic, etc.) in different cities, and that helps to grow my customer base as well. I’ve only just begun a real expansion of the online store and product offering, like this new clothing line, for example. Now I feel that I can try to reach a wider audience because I have a proper product lineup. And I’m doing this through specialty blogs and interviews and also through social media like my fanpage on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
MC: In your about page, it states that you’re “part of what may be the first art movement in Western History where women are not second-class citizens, but have an edge in the mind of the public especially when it comes to capturing the essence of the modern woman.” What exactly does this statement mean? How does it feel to be part of this movement?
CD: This statement is really cool because it there are a lot of amazing, talented and visionary female artists in the edgy lowbrow/pop surrealism genre that I paint in, and we mostly paint women or girls. Some of these are Lori Early, Sas Christian, Audrey Kawasaki, Kukula, Silvia Ji, Stella im Hultberg, and so many more. Each of us has a different style, but generally speaking we all infuse a lot of emotion, sensuality and beauty into our girls. Men have dominated highbrow art for centuries, but there is such a huge difference when a woman paints a woman. I’m thrilled and proud to be part of this movement because I know we’re changing people’s perceptions of art, artists, and maybe even making a little history.
MC: What can we expect to see from Camilla in the future? What upcoming products and projects do you have in the works?
CD: I’m going to be concentrating on my comics a lot and towards the end of 2010 I’ll get back into painting my full color pieces. The first half of 2010 I’ll be working on the pieces for my solo show in Rome, which opens June 5th, and on some client work that I can’t disclose right now, but is very exciting! I’ll also be working on Tanpopo 3, the continuation of my self-published series. I plan on publishing two per year, until the final 10th installment. I’m really going to clamp down and try to focus as much time as possible on comics and paintings though. I want to get away from illustration and give myself over entirely to these two disciplines that mean so much to me. Two shows I will be a part of soon are the He-Man show in Los Angeles, at Gallery 1988 that opens January 8th, and a show for the Olympics, at the Ayden Gallery in Vancouver in February.
MC: So what in-depth advice would you give to other people who want to work creatively for a living and leave an ordinary 9-5 job lifestyle? What are some steps in making this happen?
CD: This is a very personal question, because everyone’s life situation is different. But what’s always the same, I think, is that there is a fear factor; fear of the unknown, and leaving what could be a comfortable salary. You have to learn self-discipline so that you keep yourself on task, and you have to self-motivate, and manage yourself closely. What’s important is that you have a very clear idea of what you want to do when you leave the 9-5 job, and possibly start by doing your new creative work on the side, so that you have the safety net of your salary. Once you’ve dipped your toes into the creative waters, and you feel more comfortable doing this kind of work, and you’ve established a network (of friends, clients, mentors, etc.) you’ll have to dive in, cut that cord! There is never a perfect time to do it, so it requires a leap of faith. But if you’ve worked on the creative stuff already and sewn the seeds for the future, you’ll be able to take one step forward at a time, and plan continuously from there.
You can’t know exactly how it is going to be in at the start, so you have to be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances. Definitely be sure that you know what you’re doing, in terms of your core (creative) competencies and that you’ve done research to make sure that there is a market for what you want to do, who the competition is, and what makes you different. That will be what helps you differentiate yourself from the others, and will be a selling point, whether you’re creating a product or simply selling yourself.
For more on Camilla D’Errico and her art work, visit her website, Camilladerrico.com.